To the artists and community members who have spoken out in recent days regarding 4Culture’s involvement with the Children and Family Justice Center: thank you. We—and, much more importantly, King County’s youth—need your voices. I write today, as Executive Director of 4Culture, to share some of the history and intent of our involvement with this project.
My own convictions and 4Culture’s organizational values put us firmly in opposition to the current system of youth incarceration, especially the overrepresentation of children of color within this system. In 2012, when King County voters approved a $200 million levy to build the Children and Family Justice Center (CFJC), the county’s percent-for-art ordinance went into effect, directing 1% of the budget for this county construction project toward public art. 4Culture automatically became the agency responsible for managing the 1% for this project.
At that moment, 4Culture had a choice to make. Walking away from the project would have been illegal—with far-reaching consequences for the artists and organizations we support across the county. Staying with the project meant working within a system that criminalizes the youth of our community, especially our black and brown children. There is no silver lining to this situation. We understood then, as we do now, that many in the community would rightly disagree with this decision.
4Culture accepted the percent-for-art funds with the intention of using as much of the money as we could to actually develop alternatives to youth incarceration in King County. This resulted in Creative Justice, an arts-based program that works to get youth out of detention and empowers them to advocate for systemic change. Over the past seven years, 4Culture staff pursued outside funding for the program through grants and donations, and we’re proud that it is now becoming an independently operating organization.
Despite our attempts to direct more CFJC percent-for-art dollars to Creative Justice and other social engagement efforts instead of fixed art, by law we are required to use the remaining funds to do the following:
- Purchase portable artwork for the public access areas of the juvenile court building on the CFJC campus. This is the call for artwork that went out most recently.
- Commission murals for the detention area of the campus.
- Commission an artwork for the exterior façade of the Alder Street transitional housing entrance.
- Relocate existing artwork from the current site to the new campus.
I make no claims to being infallible, and as long as our organization serves King County’s creative communities, we will continue to listen, collaborate, and respond. In this instance, we continue to push, as we have since 2012, for art that helps bring about a reality where youth incarceration is obsolete.
Brian J. Carter
4Culture Executive Director